The KA-BAR story: A 4 part-documentary history of a legendary company

KA-BAR Story

This year marks the 120th Anniversary of the founding of the company that would eventually come to be known as KA-BAR Knives. In honor of this august occasion, a documentary history of the company has been released in 4-part series. The final installment just dropped, so it seemed like the perfect time to share them with you.

Episode 1 begins with the history of the New England cutlery industry in general, and the early careers of the company’s founders, before detailing the rise of the company that would become KA-BAR.


Episode 2 begins with the company’s move to Olean, New York, and explains how the myth of “Kill-A-B(e)ar” actually has some merit based on an actual letter and bearskin Wallace Brown received from an Alaska trapper. It continues through the untimely deaths of the founding Brown Brothers, and how the company fell on the young shoulders of Wallace Brown’s son Danforth. Surviving the Depression, they were ready with a new design when WWII broke out – the iconic USMC fighting knife.


Part 3 tells the post-war  of the company as it struggled to adapt to changing market conditions. After a failed move to Georgia, they return home to Olean. Danforth Brown dies, and the company changes hands several times and eventually ends up in Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  The company is acquired by Cole Consumer Products company, and eventually returns to a semblance of profitability. However, is a shell of its former self – outsourcing production and producing largely suboptimal products. They are eventually purchased by Cutco in 1996, and production largely returns to New York.


The final installment picks up with Cutco’s purchase of KA-BAR and their return home to Olean. The company undergoes a renaissance, expanding their lineup into the variety you see today. They brought in respected designers like Ethan Becker and others, and the company returned to its historic place at the forefront of the American cutlery industry.


The whole series is fantastic. I have been watching them as they have come out, but wanted to save them for inclusion in the single post you see here.

Worth the 45 minutes or so it takes to watch the whole thing (without credits) or less if you run it on 1.5 or 2x speed.


Bonus Video: Uncle Ethan’s take…







  1. Gordon Tillman says:

    Very cool. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. George says:

    Simply love Ka-Bar, the BK2 is probably my all time favourite knife. Great company with several outstanding knives.

  3. Sam L. says:

    OutSTANDING. Dang, that’s good! I don’t have a KA-BAR knife. Have to look into that.

    1. Sam L. says:

      Forgot that I have two KA-BAR Dozier folders in my EDC rotation. Clip-points, not drop-points, as I got them a few years ago.

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The KA-BAR story: A 4 part-documentary history of a legendary company

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